I used to think my job was to protect people from difficult feelings and take away their discomfort by any means possible.
I was the sponge, the buffer, the mediator, the anticipator and pre-emptor of awkwardness and pain.
It took too many years to realize that, not only was that approach robbing me of my energy and potential, it also was robbing the people around me of their own path.
When I attempted to insulate others from discomfort, not only were my efforts futile, they were actually selfish and disempowering for everyone involved.
If I witnessed their pain, I felt guilty and powerless and was reminded of the inherent suffering in life. Though my attempts at “helping” looked altruistic from the outside, I was really just trying to maintain my own equilibrium by controlling their range of experience – and stunting their growth in the process.
Of course, compassion, active listening, and offering support where possible are absolutely essential and empowering. Taking personal responsibility for insulating everyone from even the slightest inconvenience, though – not so much.
As they say, comfort is the enemy of progress.
The most valuable lessons I’ve learned have been born out of the greatest difficulties I’ve faced. So who was I to try to shut down those learning opportunities for others?
These days, I welcome the moments of uncertainty and discomfort with my clients, colleagues and loved ones. We allow the hard feelings to be there. We celebrate them as opportunities to build new muscles and chart out into fresh territory.
Turns out, that’s where all the good stuff happens.